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Thai archbishop among 20 new Catholic cardinals

Jan 05. 2015
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By The Nation

THREE SOUTHEAST Asian Catholic priests, including a Thai, are joining the world's list of cardinals - the so-called princes of the Catholic Church.

They are Archbishop Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Thailand, Archbishop Charles Maung Bo of Myanmar and Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon of Hanoi.

 Pope Francis named 20 new cardinals on Sunday. His choices reflect a change in church demographics, which have shifted towards Africa, Latin America and Asia in the past century.

Myanmar and Vietnam, for example, for the first time in their history have now seen their nationals appointed cardinals.

Christianity celebrated its 500th anniversary in Myanmar, home to about 700,000 Catholics, last year.

“Let compassion become the common religion of humanity. We can make poverty history,” Yangon Archbishop Charles Maung Bo said as he reflected on his country’s situation, according to Myanmar Eleven.

He noted that 2014 was a significant year for Myanmar, marking 500 years of Christianity’s journey there.

In his radio speech to mark the New Year, he placed his focus on poor education and health services in the country. The archbishop also mentioned modern slavery, extending concerns to the children of migrant workers. He also urged the end of attempts to start wars.

The archbishop went on to highlight the need for justice and peace in the country. As Myanmar is to hold a national election this year, he said the Church’s role was to preserve human dignity and raise voices on behalf of the voiceless.

He spoke up just before being named a new cardinal.

In the Roman Catholic Church, cardinals are a group of more than 100 prominent bishops in the Sacred College who advise the Pope and elect new Popes.

The new cardinals will be officially installed in a ceremony on February 14. Pope Francis, along with the new cardinals, will celebrate a joint mass the following day. Once these new members of the College of Cardinals are officially installed, there will be 228 members, including 125 who can vote in conclaves.

Kriengsak, archbishop of the Bangkok archdiocese, is one of the new 20 cardinals. However, he is not the first Thai to achieve this high rank. The first Thai cardinal was Michael Michai Kitbunchu, now 86.

Born on May 27, 1949, Kriengsak is 66 and may still be young enough to join the next conclave to elect the Pope’s successor.

In announcing the new cardinals, Pope Francis said they came “from 14 countries from every continent [and] manifest the indissoluble links between the Church of Rome” and churches around the world.

New cardinals also hailed from Europe, Africa, New Zealand, Tonga, and Latin America.


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